Lapinkansa.fi and Pohjolansanomat.fi rely on Open Source

Lapin Kansa and Pohjolan Sanomat launched their new websites at the beginning of June. They are now better able to serve end users, i.e. their readers. What is significant is that they are already Alma Media's tenth and eleventh websites to use the open-source publishing system WordPress.

Lapin Kansa and Pohjolan Sanomat revamped their websites at the beginning of June. The functionality and appearance of the services were updated, and their content now covers a wider range of topics. From a reader’s perspective, user experience is now much smoother. The website is also responsive, which means that it works efficiently on both large computer screens as well as on small mobile screens.

The new online services offer more content, such as columns and diverse news stories. Some of the content is only available to print subscribers, who pay for content. A similar concept has also been applied to other Alma Media websites, including Aamulehti.fi.

What makes the new Lapin Kansa and Pohjolan Sanomat websites special is the fact that they are already the tenth and eleventh Alma Media news sites published using WordPress. Originally developed for blogs, WordPress is the most popular publishing tool for online services. Over the years its features have increased to an extent that it is now also used for other types of websites. At the moment, Alma Media is the only large digital media company in Finland to use WordPress extensively as the platform for their online services.

WordPress is a free open-source tool, and its code is developed by a world-wide community, which is open to anyone. The idea is that when a member of the community adds a new feature to the system, other members can start using it, and everyone benefits from it.

“One way that we can see the benefits of an open-source tool is the fact that WordPress offers tens of thousands of free plugins that we can use to improve our websites. These can also be tailored to meet our business requirements if necessary. In addition, WordPress does not have any monthly license fees. This means that we can channel more resources into product development, which will result in tangible results,” says Timo-Jaakko Rautavuori, Alma Media's development manager, who was in charge of the website revamp.

Positive experiences

Alma Media Kustannus Oy first experimented with WordPress in 2011. The WordPress system was tested at Aamulehti's weekly supplement Moro, which is smaller than the actual newspaper websites both in terms of readership and content. According to Rautavuori, the piloting was so encouraging that it was agreed that the system would also be used for the larger websites.

“I've been particularly pleased to see that our editorial staff like WordPress because it's so user-friendly. The websites are easy to maintain and manage.”

A lot of people are concerned about security issues with WordPress as its source code is available to anyone. Since it is the most common content management system on the internet, it is often attacked.

“Security is important to us. It's vital that the WordPress developer community reacts to threats promptly. Equally, it's our duty to ensure that our system security is up to date. In practice, this means that we must update the WordPress system every time an update is available.”

Following the example

Open-source content management systems have quickly become widespread all over the world. Along with WordPress, other popular open-source systems include Drupal and Joomla. Many major news companies use WordPress for their websites; the best-known are the UK versions of Metro and Wired. Rautavuori thinks that WordPress will also become more widely used in Finland.

“We took this road as we decided to find alternatives to licensed systems,” Rautavuori explains.

Rautavuori says that Alma staff have learnt more dynamic methods for developing websites over the past few years. Rautavuori works as the head of the online services development team at Alma Media Kustannus. The team develops and maintains more than thirty news websites at the company.

“Our dynamism comes from the new way we approach things. We used to develop our online services as if we were building a house; we planned and designed for a long time before implementing our plans. During the implementation phase, the digital world around us was rapidly changing. Changes are happening faster all the time, which is why we had to adjust our development philosophy. We are now dynamic and ready to test and make changes to our services at short notice. This is something our readers are used to."

What is an open-source code?

  • An open-source programme's source code can be accessed by everyone
  • Open-source platforms do not have license fees
  • An open-source code is continually developed by a community – it is not considered to be a ready product but rather an ongoing process.

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